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Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project

Kegalle, Sri Lanka
from £485 (1 week)

Ref: AV080

A wonderful opportunity for volunteers to care for their own special elephant helping with its daily care - feeding, river bathing, walking out with them as well as any necessary medical treatment. Volunteers are able to create a special bond with their elephant as well as immersing themselves in the Sri Lankan way of life and culture. Work hands on with Elephants and help to improve the care and conservation of these wonderful animals across Sri Lanka.

Who can join: 18 years and over
Accommodation: Dedicated on-site Volunteer Accommodation
Transfer time: 1.5 hours
Pick up Point: Bandaranaike International Airport (Columbo)
Meals: Three meals a day included
Volunteer numbers: approx 20

Duration & Fees

1 week£485
2 weeks£695
3 weeks£855
4 weeks£1,085

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Please note: The currency conversion is an estimate based on today's exchange rates and is to be used as a guide only. All payments to Amanzi Travel have to be made in Pounds Sterling (GBP)

Start Dates

We ask volunteers to join on any Sunday or Monday throughout the year.

The project is closed over the Christmas Period from 16 December - 3 January.

Payment

£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure

What's Included

  • Onsite accommodation and three meals a day
  • Towels, linen, mosquito net
  • Help and support from local project staff
  • Volunteer discounts on trips around the Island
  • Tour of onsite elephant dung paper factory
  • Certificate of placement

What's not included

  • International flights
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure (please see details under "Getting There")
  • Visas as required
  • Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
  • Optional extra excursions and activities in free time

Highlights 

  • Work hands on caring for your own elephant during the volunteer placement.
  • Walk out in the bush with your elephant and bath them in the local river.
  • Be a part of improving elephant care and conservation across Sri Lanka as a whole as well as with the herd at the sanctuary.
  • Help out on the Mobile Veterinary Unit 
  • Learn about Sri Lankan farming techniques and enjoy home grown produce
  • Teach English to local villagers and help raise awareness of conservation issues
  • Experience all aspects of Sri Lankan life and culture

This Elephant Project was founded in 1999 with the assistance of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and works to continually improve the care, protection and treatment of elephants in Sri Lanka by providing a place of sanctuary with medical services and facilities. The ultmate aim of the sanctuary is to work towards improved elephant care and conservation, protecting not just our the herd but elephants based there but also all over Sri Lanka.  The sanctuary is situated on a beatuiful 15 acre estate near Kegalle.

Since its inception, the sanctuary has cared for more than 80 elephants and there are usually approximately 6 - 10 elephants permanently or temporarily resident at the sanctuary with ages ranging from 30 to 58 years.

The main focus of volunteers is the daily care and management of the elephants living at the sanctuary.  Upon arriving at the project, volunteers will be allocated their own elephant which they will help to care for throughout their stay as well as assisting with any necessary medical treatments. This dedicated care and responsibility creates a very special relationship between the volunteer and elephant they work with.  Volunteers soon get to know the sounds and movements, mood, personatliy and even oncoming sickness of their elephant - a very special bond is created.

Working under the direction of your elephant’s mahout and project staff and with other volunteers, volunteers assist with the elephants feeding and bathing and general care. Volunteers will walk with their elephant and help bath their elephant in the onsite river; prepare any feed, vitamins and medication, help to maintain the elephant bed and taking them to bed in the evening with their mahout. 

During a volunteer's placement we encourage each participant to initiative and develop their own ideas and follow up on those off previous volunteers in order to help to work towards the ultimate aim of the project in improving the care and conservation of the elephant herd and elephants across the country.  Volunteers are encouraged to make a real difference and do all they can to help the project to promote it aims both locally and internationally.  

As well as looking after the herd of elephants, volunteers may also be involved in the general running of the project, from fundraising, marketing, blog, website and newsletter writing as well as helping to maintain the on site museum promoting elephant conservation to visitors. 

There are six main aspects to the volunteer work at this project:

  • Daily care and treatment of the elephants including feeding, washing and cleaning of the elephants and their enclosures, monitoring healthcare, meeting with the vets, logging health issues all factors aimed at improving the lives of the elephants 
  • Administration, fundraising, awareness and social media support, research and museum maintenance as well as educating visitors about what the foundation is trying to achieve
  • Eco-garden where volunteers will work alongside the gardener growing fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs used to care for and feed the elephants and maintain the grounds.
  • MVU (Mobile Veterinary Unit) which travels around Sri Lanka providing check ups and emergency treatment for well and domestic elephants. The MVU also provides supervision of the Pera Heras (religious ceremonies) in which the elephants take part. Please note, these visits take place according to need and can not be guaranteed to take place during any particular period 
  • Teaching English - many local villagers can’t afford lessons, so native speaking volunteers are very important. Imparting time and knowledge to people of all ages and abilities will greatly improve their lives and chances of better employment. Informal after-school clubs have been set up and everyone is welcome. The sessions also allow awareness of conservation issues to be passed on to the local population. Teaching qualifications are not necessary and this is also a very rewarding aspect of the project
  • Project work using individual skills and interests to move the project forward, raise awareness, and implement ideas to help imrpove the foundation further

The project has recently built a dedicated area for the elephants to relax and socialise together to improve the lives of these beautiful elephants that live here.  This is a project in development that volunteers may be involved in to help enrich the lives of these wonderful animals. 

Itinerary

Volunteers typically work 5 days a week with 2 days off for leisure and exploring the many attractions Sri Lanka has to offer. Whilst in Sri Lanka, volunteers will be able to immerse themselves in the Sri Lankan way of life and culture and experience it’s warm and friendly people first hand, as well as its beautiful natural surroundings. 

7am Making and distributing elephant vitamins and medicines
7.30am Cleaning out the elephants day bed and free roaming enclosure
8.00am Vet/Health checks with the vet assistant and feeding of vitamin/medicine
8.30am Bathing Elephants
9.00am Breakfast
10.00am Cleaning elephant night beds
11.00am Maintenace time: river cleaning, recycling, eco gardening
12 noon Free Time (lunch served at 1pm)
2pm - 5pm Project work and eco gardening depending on the skills and interest of the volunteer.  On selected days, tours of the paper factory/educational garden.  Volunteers may also have the opportunity to learn Sinhalese, Buddhism or Sri Lankan history as a teacher comes in on selected days.
Evenings Volunteers can relax, have a bonfire, go to the local pub across the road, swim in the local hotel, take part in educational quiz's and movie nights.

Volunteers must be able to work independently within the project guidelines and with plenty of initiative. They will need patience when working with the animals as well as being willing to get stuck in and accept another culture. Volunteers will be encouraged to bring with them their skills, expertise and ideas in order to help while working on the project.  

Volunteers should also be aware that the project is open to visitors and tourists.  The income generated from which is fed back into the continued development of the sanctuary to improve the welfare of the elephants that live there. 

Extra Information

Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the little island sitting at the easterly foot of the subcontinent of India certainly lives up to its name. Up until 1971 the island was known as Ceylon but still retains its stunning white sandy beaches with world renowned surf, historic and cultural temples and monuments and friendly Asian faces. 

Volunteers might explore natural rainforests or mountains, such as the highest mountain, Pidurutalagala in the south of the island which is 2,524 metres high. Hope to see sloth bears, leopards, wild boars and anteaters in the wild. Sri Lanka’s beaches vary from snorkelling, diving and surfing and chilled out tiny beaches to wide lively expanses of golden sand beaches that like to party. Don’t miss out on visiting a cooling tea plantation and try some of the famous Sri Lankan Tea brought to the island by the tea loving British. 

Discover some of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, an impressive number of sites in view of the size of the island.  Perhaps visit the Central Highlands, which include Horton Plains National Park perfect for hiking at over 2000 metres high and full of forests, waterfalls and lakes, the Knuckles Range and Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak is its other name which is located in the Hill Country. 

Anuradhapura Ruins are Sri Lanka’s answer to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or Burma’s Bagan. Although these ruins aren’t quite as impressive, they are certainly another remarkable Asian sight to tick off the list. There are also the cave temples of Dambulla, or the Royal Rock Temple. 

Getting There

Volunteers should fly into Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, where they will be met by a project representative and taken on to the project base.  Airport transfers will be arranged for you however they are not included in the project fee and volunteers need to pay the driver directly.  Volunteers can choose for us to arrange a private car or a tuk tuk and the prices are below:

Private Car 7500 each way (approx £38)
Tuk Tuk 5500 each way (approx £27)

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can help with any flight arrangements required, Please contact Amanzi Travel for further information.  

Support and Orientation

Support and advice is available from Amanzi Travel office staff and project/trip leaders. Upon booking, you will receive a comprehensive pre-departure pack that provides all the details you will need to prepare for your trip.  This document includes information on accommodation, staff, visas, optional activities, packing checklist and medical advice and if you have any questions that are not answered in the pack we are always on hand to help and advise. We will do all we can to ensure that you are well prepared and looking forward to your trip. You will also receive an in country orientation on arrival.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emergency contact number is provided for everyone who travels with us.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence (9401) and is able to arrange your flights on request giving you financial protection for your flight and trip costs. We also offer advice on personal travel insurance for your trip.

Kegalle, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation ProjectKegalle, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation ProjectKegalle, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation ProjectKegalle, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation ProjectKegalle, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation ProjectAccommodation is onsite surrounded by palm trees and overlooking paddy fields. Mosquito nets, clean linen and towels are provided. The bungalow and cabins are maintained by volunteers and our Bungalow Keeper Abey.

The Bungalow - Bedrooms are shared facilities with bunk beds with en-suite western bathroom facilities, there is also two refreshing outdoor showers. There is a basic kitchen area with sink, kettle, water filter and fridge freezer, washing bowls for your clothes and a lounge area with books to read and free wifi.  

The Jungle Cabins - Five cabins that can each sleep three people. All cabins features a bunk bed and a single bed. The jungle cabin facility has its own shower and toilet block attached. Volunteers in these room will also have access to the bungalow for the facilities there.

Please be prepared for occasional power cuts and water shortages that are all part of the fun here in Sri Lanka!

Your volunteer placement fee includes three local style meals a day, which are provided at the Colonial House, lunch is a vegetarian meal and will be fresh and nutritious and often grown in the onsite Eco-garden.  There is also a private lounge at Club Concept opposite the project base. Wherever possible special dietary requirements will be accommodated. 

Single Occupancy Accommodation
Single Occupancy accommodaiton upgrades can be arranged based on availability.  Please contact gemma@amanzitravel.co.uk to check availability and prices

Click here to view the full interactive mapSri Lanka

Sri Lanka

The small island country of Sri Lanka sits just off the east coast of the subcontinent of India in the Indian Ocean. It is known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean – and for good reason. Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka, with its bold and bright flag, is a country full of pristine beaches, temples, renowned surf and the typical Asian welcoming faces and is truly a little gem in the ocean.

Sri Lanka’s location gave it importance during the time of the Silk Road and it has a deep and colourful history spanning over 3,000 years, with evidence of settlements dating back 125,000 years. The country is full of different religions and languages and has a rich Buddhist history with the first known Buddhist writings dating back to 29 BC.

Colombo, just outside of the country’s capital, is a large city that produces tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber and the native spice cinnamon. The island is home to natural tropical rainforests and coastal plains with mountains in the south, with the highest point, Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 metres. It is also a bio-diversity hotspot with 22 % of the wildlife being endemic. Visitors can expect to see Asian elephants, sloth bears, leopards, wild boar and anteaters in the wild or in one of Sri Lanka’s 24 wildlife reserves that are spread across the island.

It is also home to an impressive number of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites of which few other island countries can be proud. Visitors can uncover thousands and thousands of years of history through the culture and religion of the mysterious temples, beautiful buildings, ruins and statues with their intricate detailed carvings.

Highlights of country

  • Vast cultural history
  • Extremely welcoming locals
  • Eight UNESCO sites
  • Beaches, forests and mountains
  • Tropical climate with a dry and wet season

Climate

SeasonsMaxMin
Summer 30 °C 26 °C
Winter 30 °C 22 °C

Summer – max 30 degrees / min 26 degrees Celsius

Winter – max 30 degrees / min 22 degrees Celsius

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with the typically two Asian seasons; the wet season and the dry season, with monsoons in both seasons. The Yala monsoon begins in May and normally lasts until August giving rain over the southwest part of the island: this part also has the highest rainfall, of up to 4000 mm. The dry season is during the months of December to March.

The second monsoon comes from the Maha monsoon winds, which start in October and last until January and covers the North and East of the island, which is far dryer with only round 1000 mm of rain per year. The dry season for this part of the island is then from May until September.

The low lying areas of Colombo on the west coast have average temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius, while higher areas such as Kandy, at an altitude of 500 metres, are slightly cooler at around 20 degrees Celsius and the ocean is a tempting 27 degrees Celsius all year round.

Key Facts

Population – 20.33 million
Capital – Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo
Currency – Sri Lankan rupee
Official languages – Sinhala and Tamil
Time difference – GMT + 5.5 hours
Telephone - +94

Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project

I had a great week volunteering at The Elephant Care and Conservation Project in Sri Lanka. The people were very friendly and it was amazing working with the Elephants for a week. Thank you Amanzi for arranging this for me and your helpful assistance from time of booking all the way up to departure.

Jessica, UK, aged 24 (Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project)

Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project

Your day usually starts early. You get to work with one elephant and its mahout (keeper) during your time and it is really incredible as you get to build a bond with both. Although biased, I think I lucked out with my pair and I absolutely adore both Madhu my adolescent elephant and the cheeky mahout Sanjeeva. You start off by cleaning the elephant’s bed – yes this does mean picking up elephant poo I’m afraid. It is not as bad as you think and it is almost like an exercise routine as you energetically hurl these ginormous elephant poos as if they were shot puts.

Next is washing the elephant in the river using coconut husks. There is a science to this as some of the mahouts tried to explain to me, although I’m not sure I quite grasped it. After a vigorous scrubbing you’ve now achieved the toning part of your workout – goodbye bingo wings!! The final part of the morning is preparing the elephant’s vitamins and hiding them in a doughy treat. You then get to feed it to your elephant and brush their feet.

There are very few people in this world who can claim such a wonderful start to their day.

Afternoons are much less structured which allows volunteers to participate in a range of tasks and even get involved in areas that particularly interest them. During my time I helped paint a temple, look for stray dogs and teach local children. The only activity that was timetabled in the afternoon was gardening. This was hard work in the midday sun but I have fond memories of Bandera (the assistant gardener) who seemed to relish handing me (and noone else) a massive shovel every day and smiled cheekily at me as I tried in my girl-like fashion to hack and plough the soil.

Deeba (Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project)

Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project

I decided to celebrate my approaching 60th birthday by doing something completely different so I signed up as a volunteer at the Sri Lanka Elephant Care Programme for 8 weeks. I had no idea what to expect and so came with few expectations.  

It has been a fantastic experience, working at close quarters with such large, wonderful animals definitely counts up there in my top ten but don’t come expecting any home comforts.

Three days a week, the volunteers go to a local school where there is an after-school club of around 14 children who want to improve their English.  They ranged in age from 7 to 16 years old and  I cannot tell you how much I LOVED this!!!  The children are so appreciative, so keen to learn and were always happy and smiling.  I don’t have a teaching background and, as any of my friends will tell you, have little patience with small children so I surprised even myself by the level of commitment I felt for this class and I shall miss them dreadfully when I return to the UK.

There is so much that I shall be sorry to leave when I go home – the amazing openness and friendliness of the Sri Lankans, the call of the mahouts as they talk to their elephants, the bread van’s early morning arrival playing Fur Elise just like an ice cream van, the other volunteers, some of whom have become good friends, crowded buses where children smile at you when you catch their eye, the sunshine (!) and last but certainly not least, the children at the school!

Finally, my personal top ten tips to make your stay here comfortable

1 - Bring your own pillow
2 - Crocs – they are comfortable and protect your feet from the mucky bed area
3 - Hardly any clothes – you live in the same stuff and everything is so cheap to buy here
4 - The best torch you can find
5 - Lots of good insect repellent 
6 - Tea Tree Oil- for when insect repellent just isn’t good enough
7 - A nail brush- hard to find here but needed to keep those nails poo free! 
8 - A secret stash of goodies- chocolate isn’t great as it melts
9 - An ipod/ laptop etc as its fun to have some entertainment in the evenings. 
10 - Last of all a good sense of humour and an open attitude to new adventures!

Frances, aged 60 (Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project)

Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project

All in all my experience at Sri Lanka Elephant Care Programme was phenomenal, because I got hands on experience in a number of areas, but even more so because of the warmth, generosity and humour of ALL the people I met there from Mo and Sam, to the mahouts, to my fellow volunteers and the wonderful staff at the restaurant. No day passed without laughter and I shall treasure my memories forever.

Rikke (Sri Lanka Elephant Care and Conservation Project)

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